Jefferson County commissioners mull action on shooting range moratorium

Kate Dean

Kate Dean

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County commissioners are considering taking action on their moratorium on new commercial shooting ranges one week from today, they told county staff Monday.

Commissioners didn’t yet have a chance to read through the hundreds of pages of comments the public had provided on the moratorium, but discussed the next steps forward Monday.

The commissioners next meet on Tuesday, Feb. 20, because of the Presidents’ Day holiday.

More than 50 people provided spoken comments during a public hearing last week and there have been more than 100 written comments — nearly 500 pages — since the hearing.

“I spent many, many hours this weekend deep in the testimony from the hearing,” said Commissioner Kate Dean. “I was hoping some general themes would rise to the surface, but they are highly divergent.”

Commissioners Kathleen Kler and David Sullivan hadn’t yet reviewed the written testimony by Monday, they said.

The moratorium was enacted following Joe D’Amico’s proposal for a shooting and archery range on 40 acres near Tarboo Lake, a few miles from Quilcene. The county and D’Amico have entered into mediation over what the moratorium means for his proposed facility.

D’Amico, owner of the former Fort Discovery gun range at Discovery Bay, has already moved buildings from that facility to the Tarboo land he purchased in September.

He told commissioners Monday he drilled his well and found water last week.

Dean asked county staff if they had yet made changes to the county Department of Community Development’s proposed amendment to the moratorium, which would allow an applicant to test for sound.

Morley said staff hadn’t yet had a chance to make changes related to who would foot the bill on a study.

“It’s written in a way that … triggering a study can either be the applicant, a third party or the county,” he said.

Chief Civil Prosecuting Attorney Phillip Hunsucker said the intention was that whoever requested the testing would have to pay for it.

That amendment was first proposed during a public hearing last week on the moratorium, though few focused on it during their spoken comments, commissioners said.

The county is also looking for citizens to join a nine-member advisory committee to help the county develop a draft ordinance. The committee would include a resident or property owner from each of the three commissioners’ districts and one at-large county resident or property owner.

So far there have been six applicants for the four seats to be filled by residents or property owners. Applications are due by the end of the work day Wednesday.

Morley said several times during the meeting that the advisory committee should reflect values shared across the county.

“I think our intent by having citizens and property owners represented was to afford an opportunity to have a broad diversity of opinion,” he said. “With six applicants and four seats, that’s not a lot of choice so far.”

He said the goal is for the committee to include residents who are informed and have an interest in seeing shooting facilities in Jefferson County and who have an interest in the off-site impacts of commercial shooting facilities.

Kler asked if Pope Resources, a large landowner in Jefferson County she said owns land near Fort Discovery’s proposed Cedar Hills Recreational Facility near Tarboo Lake, has been contacted to be involved.

Morley reminded her that the advisory committee will be used in drafting the county ordinance and not reviewing any specific applications.

“Bear in mind, again, while you may be hearing public comments about a specific application, the focus of this work of having the review committee is to develop some uniform regulations that would apply to any applicant,” said Morley. “I would just remind us that this is county-wide in scope and it is not geared toward a particular application.”

The county has repeatedly stressed the moratorium was in response to public concerns about commercial shooting ranges in general, including but not limited to D’Amico’s proposed facility.

D’Amico said during public comment Monday that the majority of people who spoke during the public hearing least week spoke about his project or Tarboo Valley.

“It is kind of the Joe D’Amico moratorium,” D’Amico said.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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